The Red Bull Ring, deep in the Styrian countryside, was to bear witness to a great race, plus an optimum strategy that provided a welcome surprise for BMW Motorsport’s Jens Marquardt, as defending champion Bruno Spengler secured his first victory, as well as the Team MTEK duo of DTM rookies Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock completing Munich’s clean sweep of the podium. This was the 1st time BMW had achieved this feat since coming back to the DTM at the beginning of last season.
Rain had hit the Austrian 4.326km track the night before, with the drivers still getting used to making the most of only 90 minutes of free practice on the Saturday morning to get things right for qualifying. With track temperatures staying around the 20 degree mark, as the racing got underway beneath an overcast sky, Spengler and Wittmann led the charge from the front row for BMW, with Audi Sport’s winner from last year, Edoardo Mortara fighting his way past the young German as several cars went wide at turn one.
Several cars came together throughout the race, including Timo Scheider and Filipe Albuquerque, Daniel Juncadella and Jamie Green and the most dramatic of the days’ action was another coming together between Martin Tomczyk and Roberto Merhi, who spun the 2011 DTM Champion’s M3 DTM into the barrier just 15 laps in, forcing him to retire with handling problems on Lap 30, saying that the car was undriveable. The Spaniard got a 10-second race time penalty for being at fault for the collision, and it seems that he is clearly not flavour of the month in the series with his current track record over the last two races.
Pit stops were another cause for concern as Green nearly went out of the pits with the car still on its jacks, but the Team Abt Sportsline outfit got his car back on terra firma before the Brit went back out. However, Joey Hand was to fall foul of a pit stop error by BMW, losing his left front wheel after his first pit stop on Lap 7, and the American parked it on the inner part of the track, to ensure no Safety Car was required.
All of the drivers in the top ten after qualifying, except for Dirk Werner, who stayed on the Standard tyres, ran on the Hankook Options. Five drivers, including Glock, Mike Rockenfeller, Adrien Tambay, Miguel Molina and Christian Vietoris, decided on a different strategy to all the front runners, as they all started on the standard tyres, being as they were all switching to the much quicker options on only Lap 4.
Gary Paffett has an another gripe to bear with regards to the race regulations, as a result of a two second time penalty for another irregular overtaking move according to Race Control. It has been the case that just the 2012 runner up for the DTM title is not the only one entirely happy with the inconsistent rulings being made, as well as Paffett not having the form he enjoyed in the early part of last season with the new regulations being raced for the first time. Gary finished up in P9, so still had some points to his name, however this does not help with his title aspirations in 2013.
Mortara and Albuquerque had races again that they wanted to forget, as the Team Phoenix duo again had no real answer for the struggles that they had been suffering with during the race, but they placed 15th and 17th respectively, showing that there is work to be done. Mattias Ekstrom and Rockenfeller both made headway throughout the race, with the pair being the best placed of the Ingolstadt drivers, 5th and 4th respectively, with Vietoris showing that his experience to help keep him in Mercedes-Benz, showed via a 7th place finish. Not the results that Toto Wolff really wants to see at the present moment, especially with the hopes that Stuttgart has in the series, as it is currently looking to build on the history that it has in the DTM.
Green and Andy Priaulx again seem to be on the short end of the stick, as both drivers languished at the bottom of the field when the 47-lap race drew to its eventual conclusion, as both look to make some headway into the top ten this season at their respective offices.
Tambay put his bad luck behind him, as the French driver placed just outside the top ten, with Mercedes rookie, Pascal Wehrlein taking his first points of his DTM career. Scheider seems to have suffered a bit of bad luck this time out, even though he is showing much better pace in general since swapping back to black, but even his lucky colour did not help the German driver secure a lowly 16th place in Austria.
This now means that Spengler goes back to the top of the table in the drivers’ standings, as Rockenfeller is 12 points behind the Franco-Canadian, with Curitiba’s Augusto Farfus staying in third overall, a point behind the rookie sensation that is Marco Wittman.
But the man of the moment was the 31-year-old, who made the victory look easy, but made sure that he made it count, as well as the team doing so: “A one-two-three is simply sensational. That does not happen very often in motor racing. We had one of those weekends, for which you spend your entire life working. However, it was not as easy as it looked. My pace was very good throughout the entire race, but I had to push in the middle of my first stint in order to stay in front. This victory belongs to BMW Team Schnitzer. The strategy, with the late second stop, was the key to the success.”
Round 4 of the 2013 DTM season sees the drivers travel to the Lausitzring in just under two week’s time, where Spengler is looking to make good his intentions in his year of defending the title. So, the question that everyone wants to know the answered remains as it was last time out: Who is next?